Reflections of a Broken Man

The Shadowlands Revisited by StephenMac
August 30, 2008, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

**currently listening to: Dusk And Summer – Dashboard Confessional**

Previously on Reflections of a Broken Man: I reflected on whether it was still fair to hold a “Shadowlands” theology that insisted that our current reality is merely a shadow of their true reality that will be found in the new creation at the end. This is a problem because it denies the reality of the now, and therefore could lead to a denial of the goodness and wholeness of this creation.

This week in Chapel, we looked at Colossians 2:16-17.

16  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)

Paul reminds his readers in Colosse to remain in the faith because of the reality of Christ in them, then warns his readers to be aware of criticism by their Jewish contemporaries who might demand that they observe the Jewish dietary laws and calendar. These things were but a shadow, and the reality is found in Christ.

lubomir_bukov_shadows-of-past-bw-frameThis is what struck me, because the language seems very similar to the Platonic Shadowlands theology. We were reminded in the sermon that what is at stake is the distinction between shadow and substance, and that we are to be wary of moving back to the historical shadow, as opposed to remaining in the reality of Christ. Furthermore, the substance is not mutually exclusive from the shadow – you do not achieve the substance simply be being ‘not shadow’. In other words, there is a twofold process of making sure that our Christian life is not built on the shadows – the things that merely point to Jesus (think modern day church ritual as well as OT law) – and that the substance is genuinely there – our theology and practice is tied directly to our personal our relationship with Christ as revealed in his Word.

Yet, how does this then relate to the avoidance of Platonic paradigms? How can we insist that the things that point to Christ, especially OT practices and laws, are mere shadows, if we have already dismissed the idea that this is our current reality – and that our current reality is the reality?

In essence, I think there is a need to distinguish between the types of shadows. Or perhaps shadow is a poor or confusing metaphor… Let me explain:

Hypothesis 1: In the first category of ‘Platonic’ shadows, we are talking about everything on earth being a shadow of a reality in heaven. For example, the sinful broken man is merely a shadow of a true man in heaven (extreme example, I’m sure that there are a multitude of variations on this theme. Specifically, I am thinking about C.S. Lewis’ eschatology which is arguably ‘Platonist’). The second category of ‘Platonic’ shadows are only a certain number of things are shadows in light of a heavenly reality. As such certain things, or maybe certain practices, are a mere shadow.

**Stephen is annoyed at Chris Carrabba’s whining voice in DBC… switching to Stephen Christian and Anberlin… NEW ALBUM – 30/9**

Continuing on… finished being distracted by wikipedia… I think the second category talks about things that are perishable, or perhaps are specific results of sin. So, for example, man in and of itself is not the shadow, but perhaps his physical limitations or his inability to have the world completely subdued as it was in the Garden of Eden (guessing here) are the shadows, but man is still the same (or something).

Hypothesis 2: Closely related to the last idea is that the metaphor is misleading or simply easily confused. May I paraphrase 2:17… “These are but signposts pointing the way; but the destination, however,  is found in Christ.” This is the thrust of the passage I think – don’t be fooled into thinking the signpost is the destination. Don’t be fooled into returning to the things that merely pointed to Christ, and miss out on Christ himself. I’m guessing here, but I think this would tie in more closely with 2:6-8…

Colossians 2:6-8  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,  7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

In this way, shadow does not imply a different reality, but merely the insubstantial connection to that which creates the shadow. Better yet, the OT laws become a signpost pointing to Christ, a ‘sandbox model’ as my Biblical Studies teacher put it in High School, of the way that God would work out his salvation in the world. This doesn’t deny the reality of those events or practices, but places their emphasis in their goal – Jesus Christ.